Political Science at Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College | Political Science | Courses | What's New?
PSC 201: American Government | PSC 209: World Politics

The Greatest Hits of the US Constitution

revised by Jeremy Lewis, 23 Sep. 2013, with foreign policy provisions section


Fixed or elastic? | Fixed elements | powers of Congress | powers of Presidency | proscriptions on US action | difficult to amend |
Elastic elements | general welfare | necessary and proper | regulates commerce | Commander in Chief  | pardons |
Invitation to struggle | money bills | treaties | appointments | veto | pocket veto | slavery | secular
Provisions of foreign policy and international relations | Congress | Presidency | Judiciary | States | Debts


The US Constitution: fixed or elastic?

In 2010-2012 there were many calls (especially among Republicans) for a return to the C18th ideals of small government and minimal taxes, enshrined in the original US Constitution.  These calls resonated well with the media and with independent voters, during the difficult economic times. Leaders of these calls were

This apparently simple idea, that sounds attractive to so many, suffers from many complications:

Fixed elements:

 
Enumerated powers of Presidency in article II, section 2 [left open and expansive]
Top of Page


Top of Page


Difficult to amend Constitution


Top of Page


Elastic elements:


Top of Page


Invitation to struggle

Money bills, shared power
Article I, section 7: "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."
Treaties made by President and Senate, Article II section 2:
"He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; "
Appointments made by President and Senate, Article II section 2:
"and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, [except]...."
Veto and pocket veto awarded to President (but not line-item veto), Article I, section 7:
Veto: "Every Bill ..., be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall ... proceed to reconsider it. If ... two thirds of [both] House[s] shall agree to pass the Bill, ...  it shall become a Law.
and pocket veto: "If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) ..., the Same shall be a Law, ..., unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law."
Slavery not mentioned, but is implied in 3/5 compromise, boosting voting power of the smaller, southern states -- and in reference to migration
Secular Constitution
No mention of God, or even synonyms for God
Presidential oath is secular (Article II, section 1:) to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Only mention of religion is for proscription against religious tests for office
Article VI: ... "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."


Top of Page



Provisions of foreign policy and international relations in the Constitution

Foreign policy powers in Article I
Article I, section 2: "No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."
Section 3: "No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."
Enumerated powers of Congress in article I, Section 8 Article II
Enumerated powers of Presidency in article II, section 2
Article III
Section. 2.  "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--... and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects."
"In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, ... the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. ..."
"The Trial of all Crimes, ... when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed."
Article III. section 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."
Article IV
Section. 3. "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."
"The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State."
Section. 4.  "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence."
Article VI
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.


Top of Page